Abstract Saul Albert 27th March

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Understanding aesthetic evaluation: how people form opinions, tastes and judgements presents challenges for formal models and experimental approaches. For example, experiments must reduce the range of : - salience - where there are too many possible parameters and dimensions for each evaluation, - context - how those parameters change over time or in relation to environmental factors, - intersubjectivity – ways to link varied perceptual experiences and different prior knowledge.

Researchers can do this by choosing to isolate and test specific phases of perceptual or cognitive process (Leder 2013), by developing specialised equipment and experimental scenarios (Egermann, Pearce, Wiggins & McAdams 2013), or by measuring and controlling for prior knowledge (Biedeman & Vessel 2006). However, while these kinds of constraints are essential for testing the theories they support, they lack shared empirical reference points that relate them to a generalised account of aesthetic evaluation.

A bottom-up approach is demonstrated here, based on systematic analysis of naturalistic conversation that could be repeated in a broad range of contexts for aesthetic evaluation. Results from a study of 'oohs' and 'aaahs' in recordings made in the Tate Gallery suggest how salient parameters, as well as contextual and intersubjective factors for aesthetic evaluations may be derived from the data.

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